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Malawi: Joyce Banda's 100 Days in Office Amidst Controversy

Malawian president Joyce Banda became Africa's second female head of state after Liberia's president following the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika.

Her first task was to rebuild confidence with major international donors who had lost confidence in Bingu's government because of his human rights and governance record. Ulemuteputepu writes in his blog:

Since she took over the power, The Iron lady as she is called changed many of her predecessor's policies and laws which had cost the country much needed foreign aid.

Joyce Banda speaking at the DFID conference in 2010. Photo shared on Flickr by DFID under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Vyaya highlights the main achievements of President Joyce Hilda Banda on the economic and diplomatic fronts:

If within 100 days someone can be able to say I have removed fuel cues which was the biggest problem in Malawi and Bingu with God all completely FAILED to deal with. The improved forex can not go without giving credit. The black market is almost gone. Improved relations with our donors and neighbours is a big foreign policy issue. …

The blogger adds further:

Bringing back media freedom is big plus which Bingu muzzled. You [could] even be arrested for taking pictures of 5 bed roomed houses. Democracy the way we fought for it in 1992 is back. THUMBS UP JB !!! Just look into security issue more seriously.

Less than 2 months after assuming office, she succeeded in normalizing relationship with Britain and received the UK International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell. writes a post on africanbusinessreview.co.za about Mitchell's visit:

The statement, made by the International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, during his visit to the state, marks a new partnership between Britain and Malawi’s new President Joyce Banda. Britain had suspended direct aid donations to the government of Malawi last year due to concerns regarding the economic management and governance of former President Bingu wa Mutharika, who died last month.

The US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which froze assistance in July 2011 following security crackdown on protestors. resumed programs in Malawi in June 2012.

Nileshzimbio writes on zimbio.com:

The suspension, which coincided with aid freezes from other governments including Britain, Malawi's biggest donor, exacerbated an already acute dollar shortage, sending the economy into a spiral. However, the MCC said on Friday the change of direction on human rights and economics under new President Joyce Banda – southern Africa's first female head of state – meant the programme should resume.

Few days before her 100 days into office, Banda officially launched the Feed the Future Initiative. nyasatimes.com reveals that:

The new initiative, one of US President Barack Obama’s flagships, aims to support the government and people of Malawi to achieve and enhance food security and agricultural diversification.

successful business woman, she has also been generous to the needy and through her Joyce Banda Foundation and Hilda Mtila Foundation has supported various institutions. Faceofmalawi.com says:

During the 100 days she has been in office, the President among other donations, dished out about K4 million to Maula prison, K2 million to Boxing Association and K1.5 million to Red Cross Society and scholarships.

A feature under the title “Malawians debate Joyce Banda’s first 100 days in Office” published on nyasatimes.com provoked many comments. MSISKA says:

Please our president should change this old policy that banks shouldn't own or invest in properties…. Let them build modern shopping malls,more buildings in our empty space City centre in Lilongwe

Also commenting the same feature, Bwenu Bwenu asks:

…. Malawi’s main forex earner is tobacco. It’s an open secret that there’s a global anti-smoking campaign which eventually will make tobacco less marketable and hence less and less forex for us. What strategies has JB got to mitigate against such a scenario? Talk of the fertiliser subsidy program, is the current K500 price sustainable in the medium and long term? Have we got an exit strategy for the subsidy?

While recognizing Banda's merits, Faceofmalawi reports opinions of eminent malawians on the necessity of her declaration of asset:

A political Scientist Henry Chingaipe said in an interview yesterday that it was important for the president to make her wealth known to the public. “If the president has not yet declared her assets, it’s important to do so because it’s the law that mandates her to declare the assets,” he said.

The post quotes also Law professor Edge Kanyongolo as saying:

Kanyongolo said it was important for the president to ensure that the Constitution is obeyed at all times. Malawi Watch Executive Director Billy Banda also asked the president to make her assets known to the public.

Another issue is the discrepancy between the small amount of money spent for the celebrations of the 48th independance day and the amount spent for Banda's 100th day in office. More importantly, malawitoday.com informs that:

Some NGOs have expressed worry that Malawi President Joyce Banda’s administration has taken the same path of using the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to target political opponents.

It is true that corruption is so prevalent in many African countries. It is difficult to find an official who has held important positions in government and other public positions keeping hands clean. But several heads of state in Africa, Banda being one of them, are accused by civil societies of using anti corruption bodies to settle political and personal grievances with people considered undesirable.

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